After Auburn's 48-11 dismantling of LSU on Halloween inside Jordan-Hare Stadium, jubilant players awarded the game ball to coach Gus Malzahn.
"It was a big birthday week this week, so we thought that would be good for him," sophomore quarterback Bo Nix said after the home win. "Obviously he put that out on the field today. That was all him."
The rout of the reigning national champion was Malzahn's 99th game as Auburn's coach, and No. 100 was supposed to take place last Saturday at Mississippi State. That contest was postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks for the Bulldogs, so Malzahn's 100th is now set for this Saturday night's matchup between his No. 23 Tigers and Tennessee in Jordan-Hare.
Malzahn's eight seasons on the Plains have yielded a 66-33 record that includes three wins over rival Alabama, two Southeastern Conference Western Division titles and one overall SEC championship. Simply reaching 100 games is far from a given, as South Carolina's Will Muschamp recently experienced, so the 55-year-old is not taking this milestone for granted.
"When I think of it that way, it makes me realize just how blessed I am to be the head coach at Auburn and how many great players that I've been able to coach," Malzahn said. "We've been able to win some football games, so I'm just real blessed and real honored. I'm looking forward to coaching in my 100th game."
With a 4-2 record in this coronavirus-altered schedule consisting solely of SEC games, Auburn is on pace to notch its eighth winning season in eight tries under Malzahn, but his tenure hasn't been without highs and lows.
Malzahn's first team in 2013 used memorable wins over Georgia and Alabama to reach the final BCS national championship game in the Rose Bowl, where the Tigers lost to Florida State in the final 13 seconds. His third squad in 2015 went just 2-6 in SEC play and 7-6 overall after a whipping of Memphis in the lowly Birmingham Bowl, while his fifth team in 2017 defeated Georgia and Alabama by a combined 35 points but could not defeat the Bulldogs a second time in the SEC championship game.
Regardless of Saturday night's outcome against the Volunteers (2-4), Malzahn will possess the worst record when compared to the other four Auburn coaches to reach 100 games — Pat Dye (74-24-2), Mike Donahue (71-24-5), Tommy Tuberville (71-29) and Shug Jordan (69-28-3). Dye led the Tigers to four SEC titles in a seven-year stretch from 1983-89, while Jordan guided Auburn to the 1957 national championship.
Malzahn was the offensive coordinator under Gene Chizik for Auburn's 2010 national champions, and his current Tigers hope this 100th game can be celebrated just like his 99th.
"Coach Malzahn is a great guy," sophomore defensive end Derick Hall said. "I came here for a reason, and he's a big part of that. Just the way he loves and cares for his players is huge. He invites us over to his house, and he's one of the best guys in the business at what he does."
Said senior receiver Eli Stove: "He's really just like another father to me. He's been good to me, my family and the team."
Bulldogs in top five
Georgia moved into the top five of the 247Sports.com team rankings for the 2021 recruiting cycle Wednesday after landing a commitment from Smael Mondon, a five-star outside linebacker from Paulding County High School in Dallas, Georgia. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder is the nation's No. 2 outside linebacker and No. 27 prospect overall.
Alabama continues to hold the nation's top crop of commitments, followed by Ohio State, LSU, Oregon and the Bulldogs.